Online Schools & Colleges
in Tennessee

Finding Affordable, Accredited Programs from Top Universities

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 62,000 first-time Tennessee undergraduates sought four-year degrees or certificates in 2016. Of these, 16,700 learners enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, equaling 5.4 percent of all students. That number rose to 55,100, or 17.7 percent, when including students enrolled in both online and on-campus courses. In response to this growing popularity, many colleges and universities are expanding their blended and online learning options. But with so many opportunities available now and in the future, how do students find the best one for them? Read on to learn the ins and outs of online colleges and universities in Tennessee.

Best Online Colleges in Tennessee

2-Year Colleges

Several key variables impact your college decision, including your academic and professional goals, budget and educational background. Start by asking some questions; do you intend to enroll as a full- or part-time student? At the colleges that stand out, how many students go on to obtain jobs or pursue graduate or doctoral degrees? Consider the average number of students taking courses, is the quality of a school's faculty, and institutional accreditation important? When searching for the best four-year undergraduate programs in Tennessee, we consider all these variables and more to create a list of the online colleges we believe provide the best combination of online student success and quality learning environment. Take a look below:

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Roane State Community College $3,744 11 18% 7% Yes Yes Yes
2 Volunteer State Community College $3,744 10 19% 7% Yes Yes Yes
3 Walters State Community College $3,744 6 20% 12% Yes Yes Yes
4 Chattanooga State Community College $3,744 6 11% 6% Yes Yes Yes
5 Columbia State Community College $3,744 4 24% 50% Yes Yes Yes
6 Dyersburg State Community College $3,930 9 12% 29% Yes Yes Yes
7 Cleveland State Community College $3,744 3 13% 25% Yes Yes Yes
8 Northeast State Community College $3,744 6 20% 5% No Yes Yes
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Johnson University $13,000 10 47% 66% 82% Yes Yes Yes

Students at Johnson University receive a degree designed to develop professional careers in areas of Christian faith. Online associate, bachelor's and graduate degree areas include intercultural studies, Biblical studies and leadership. Courses are self-paced and run for 7 weeks. Students can complete their bachelor's degree in 4 years and master's degree in 2 years. Transfer credit is accepted in some programs. Academic advising, virtual library services and faculty members are available as resources to all online students.

2 Union University $29,320 5 63% 68% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Union University offers students hybrid or online programs in business, education, ministry or nursing. Online degree programs range from an associate degree in professional studies to doctoral-level degrees in education. Earning an associate degree or master's degree can take less than two years and completing a bachelor's in organizational leadership or nursing studies can be completed in 18 months. Union awards college credit to students based on their life experience and all students are eligible for employer-paid tuition benefits, as well as other financial aid.

3 The University of Tennessee-Martin $7,680 10 67% 50% 58% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Tennessee-Martin welcomes international students, as well as domestic students in their online undergraduate and graduate programs. Online bachelor's degree programs include agricultural studies with concentrations in agribusiness or farm and ranch management. Some bachelor programs online take a full 4 years to complete, while the master's programs take up to 2 years. Transfer students can apply credits from previous college courses, as well as non-college credit toward their degrees. Professionals can also take courses in quality management systems, and there is an option to take online courses in legal studies to prepare future paralegals for the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) exam.

4 King University $25,798 14 51% 54% 89% Yes Yes Yes

Online courses at King University are offered year-round, and this Christian college offers an accelerated format for online undergraduate programs that allows students to complete major coursework in 16 months. There are 12 entirely online programs for students interested in earning a bachelor's degree; master's degree programs in business administration, education with a focus on instructional leadership, and nursing; as well as an associate degree program in the arts. Current registered nurses can complete their bachelor's in nursing with King, and then earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) by concentrating as either a nurse educator or a nursing administrator. Transfer students can apply up to 76 credits toward their online bachelor's degrees. All students accepted at King are eligible for financial aid.

5 Lincoln Memorial University $20,520 13 50% 40% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Lincoln Memorial University offers opportunities for students to earn higher degrees through an online program. In nursing, there is a program for registered nurses to earn their bachelor's degree. There are also programs for earning a Master of Business Administration in a hybrid or online format, with concentrations in management, marketing or sports management; or a master's degree in criminal justice. Two doctoral degree programs in health care can be completed in a hybrid format or entirely online. All graduate-level degree programs are designed to be completed by full-time students in 2 years. In-state and out-of-state distance learning students pay the same tuition rate for classes and semesters in their individual programs.

6 Freed-Hardeman University $21,500 5 96% 52% 99% Yes Yes Yes

Freed-Hardeman University provides a Christian college experience to its students throughout their academic programs. Many classes are available in an online format, and the college offers a master's degree in business administration program completely online. Students can choose to earn an MBA, a dual bachelor's and master's degree in business, or an MBA in health care management. The MBA program can be completed in 1 year, with courses offered in 4- and 8-week sections. Online students are eligible for financial aid, and employees at corporations that partner with FHU may apply for corporate sponsorships to help pay for their online MBA.

7 University of Memphis $7,488 34 57% 46% 44% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Memphis provides students with the opportunity to earn an online undergraduate or graduate degree in a range of fields such as business, health, humanities or social science through U of M Global. U of M Global accepts transfer credits and hybrid programs are available. Most programs and classes are self-paced, with students completing their graduation and credit requirements in their own time and on their own schedules. Online students pay the same tuition costs as residents.

8 Bethel University $9,305 8 67% 38% 77% Yes Yes Yes

Bethel University offers online degrees for undergraduate and graduate students at campuses across Tennessee. Programs follow a hybrid format, combining distance learning with campus intensives held a few times a year. The college provides seminary online programs and teaches from a Christian perspective. Enrollment counselors can help students transfer credits and adult learners have the opportunity to apply relevant experience towards their degree.

9 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville $10,858 15 77% 71% 47% No Yes Yes

Registered nurses can earn their bachelor's degree in nursing online through the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Undergraduate students can take coursework through hybrid programs that combine on-campus and off-campus learning. The college also offers a range of graduate degrees and certificate programs for online students in the areas of mathematics, information science, education, health, agriculture and human sciences. Online master's degrees in engineering are available in civil engineering with concentrations in public works or transportation; environmental engineering; industrial systems engineering; and mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering. Admission requirements for online graduate degree programs vary by department. Some courses are synchronous, while others are self-directed with set deadlines for students. Transfer students can apply previous credits to their degree. Out-of-state online students pay in-state course fees and reduced out-of-state tuition.

10 Tennessee Technological University $7,032 4 67% 51% 53% Yes Yes Yes

Undergraduate students can earn one of two bachelor's degrees through Tennessee Technological University and current professionals may seek a graduate degree in their field through the university's online master's programs. The available online bachelor's degrees are in professional studies and interdisciplinary studies, and online graduate degrees include a master's in business, accounting, exercise science, education, science in nursing and professional studies. Program lengths vary but are usually 30 to 46 credit hours, and most can be completed by full-time students within a year. Distance learning students must live in a SARA-approved state to earn their online degree from TTU. Nursing students can participate in TTU's bridge program to earn their MSN. However, this degree requires in-person residency requirements, which can be completed close to home while attending online classes.

11 Trevecca Nazarene University $23,724 9 72% 52% 97% Yes Yes Yes
12 Lipscomb University $27,472 3 61% 63% 98% Yes Yes Yes
13 East Tennessee State University $6,672 13 92% 46% 29% Yes Yes Yes
14 Lee University $15,170 13 87% 56% 78% No Yes Yes
15 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga $6,768 3 78% 43% 39% Yes Yes Yes
16 Bryan College $24,450 4 42% 53% 95% No Yes Yes
17 Austin Peay State University $6,216 18 89% 40% 23% Yes No Yes
18 Carson-Newman University $25,200 18 63% 48% 99% No Yes Yes
19 Cumberland University $20,160 4 49% 39% 67% Yes Yes Yes
20 Tennessee State University $6,216 8 - 46% 32% No Yes Yes
21 Welch College $17,920 3 - 38% 82% No Yes Yes
22 Pentecostal Theological Seminary $2,400 4 - - - No Yes Yes

How can I find which online colleges offer the degree I'm looking for in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Regents Online Campus Collaborative (ROCC) makes up one of the most comprehensive online state college and university degree platforms in the nation. ROCC's Tennessee eCampus Initiative allows prospective students to explore more than 500 online degrees and certificates and over 400 online courses offered at colleges and universities throughout the state.

Which online schools in Tennessee will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?

Transferring academic credits earned elsewhere, or receiving credit for the knowledge or experience gained outside a formal educational program, proves invaluable for students. Tennessee Transfer programs guarantee that academic credits earned at a community college for two-year associate degrees will transfer to a four-year bachelor's degrees at any public university and many private universities statewide.

Some colleges in Tennessee also grant credit for demonstrated prior learning. Tennessee State University allows students to earn college credit for prior knowledge in two ways: a credit by exam and a portfolio assessment. Exams can be standard via the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), or administered by specific departments to gauge knowledge in a certain area. The second way is by portfolio assessment, which individual colleges and universities can provide more detail on.

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How Much More Do College Grads in Tennessee Make?

Earning a college degree is an important first step toward better career prospects and enhanced earning power. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the table below shows a strong correlation between higher education and larger salaries among all Tennessee workers, regardless of industry or profession.

Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in Tennessee, by Minimum Degree Requirement:

No Formal
High School
$28,522 $39,730 $54,371 $69,024 $66,637 $110,139

Source: BLS, 2017

While trade and commerce play an important part in Tennessee's economy, the state also has a burgeoning tourism industry. In response, local colleges are providing degree-earning opportunities in hospitality and tourism-related industries.

In addition to tourism, Tennessee’s thriving tech culture has made it a fertile ground for start-ups. Colleges in Tennessee are even teaming up with corporations to provide students career opportunities in technology and engineering right out of college.

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The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

When researching online colleges in Tennessee, understanding accreditation is critical. Not only does it tell employers that you have a quality degree from a reputable institution, but it’s a key step to securing federal financial aid. Here are the two types of accreditation you need to look for when researching online colleges in Tennessee.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most important stamp of approval for U.S. colleges and universities. All state colleges and universities in Tennessee hold regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools does similarly for independent, non-public career schools, colleges and organizations in both the U.S. and abroad. This assures students of the school's high quality, as the institution voluntarily and successfully passed an independent, peer-review process to earn accreditation.

Specialized Accreditation

Some schools or programs within colleges and universities may seek out and earn specialized accreditation. This signifies quality and consistency in education in a certain subject area. Many business schools look to earn accreditation from the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and psychology programs may seek accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Paying for Online College in Tennessee: Tuition & Financial Aid

Tuition may be on the rise—not only in Tennessee but nationwide—but a college degree remains one of the best ways to earn a stronger salary. Let’s see how Tennessee tuition stacks up against the national average.

In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $8,932

Change from 2015 $437

National Average:$8,778

In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $15,359

Change from 2015 $1,160

National Average:$27,951

Tennessee took bold action to make higher education more accessible in May 2017 when the state expanded the Tennessee Promise program to pay tuition costs for all adults who enroll in an in-state community college. The program initially covered community college tuition costs for recent high school graduates. For eligibility, students need to reside in state for a period of one year prior to enrollment, maintain a 2.0 GPA, enroll in courses with sufficient credits for part-time status and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

What are Tennessee's requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?

Students from outside Tennessee may consider relocating to attend school and pay in-state tuition rates. The University of Tennessee System maintains the following student residency regulations:

  • Candidates under the age of 24 are considered dependent. For tuition purposes, they should hold the same residency classification as their parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
  • An emancipated student may establish in-state classification via clear proof of Tennessee residency. Candidates must prove that the move to Tennessee did not occur primarily for obtaining educational opportunities for themselves, their dependents or their spouse. Turning 18 does not affect emancipation status for in-state tuition purposes, nor does a student's intent to remain in the state after attending school prove that the move occurred for reasons other than educational purposes.

Are online credits more affordable in Tennessee than other places?

Tennessee's per-credit and overall tuition costs for online undergraduate courses and degrees differ between schools, but often remain more affordable than in many other regions. In-state students enrolled in the University of Tennessee's online undergraduate program paid $12,500, while tuition costs for out-of-state learners totaled $14,300. Here are a few cost-per-credit-hour rates for undergraduate tuition at a variety of online colleges in Tennessee and nearby states:

$398 to $432 per credit hour
$214 to $477 per credit hour
$210 per credit hour

Blufield State College (West Virginia)

$365 per online credit hour

Keep in mind that tuition rates are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the full cost of an online education. Fees and additional costs vary for online students between every college and university across Tennessee—check with the Admissions Offices at each school to learn about the full price of attendance.

How can I get help paying for online college in Tennessee?

Many students who pursue a bachelor's degree online require financial assistance to pay for their education. Fortunately, Tennessee learners enjoy a variety of federal, state and local government funding opportunities.

  • Known as a go-to source for educational funding, the FAFSA program awards federal student loans, grants, scholarships and work-study programs for students enrolled in Tennessee colleges and universities, whether online or on campus.
  • The Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) proves a valuable information resource for financial aid opportunities. TSAC manages the Tennessee Promise scholarship and mentoring program, which focuses on increasing the number of students that attend college in the state.

Scholarship Opportunities

The amount of money awarded by Tennessee Promise scholarships varies. These provide students a "last-dollar scholarship," which means the amount covers tuition and fees not addressed by federal Pell grants, HOPE scholarships or state student assistance funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the Tennessee's 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institution offering associate-level degrees.

  • The Ned McWherter Scholars Program awards scholarships of $6,000 per academic year to help support Tennessee high school graduates with superior academic records attend college in Tennessee. The scholarship goes to seniors starting their last semester in high school.
  • The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans provides aid to students in all states who display integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity. Candidates need a minimum GPA of 2.0, must write an essay, and arrange for recommendations to apply. The scholarship award grants $7,000 per academic year.

Online Schools & Adult Education in Tennessee

Adult education plays a key role in Tennessee labor and workforce development, often helping non-traditional learners get on the path to earning a college degree to advance their career prospects. Here are some programs that aspiring college students in Tennessee can take advantage of to jumpstart their college prospects:

  • High School Equivalency - According to the U.S. Census Bureau 12 percent of Tennessee's adult population had not graduated high school or earned a GED. These programs make it easy for adult learners to earn high school equivalency certificate.

  • English Language Courses - English proficiency also plays a significant role in unemployment rates in Tennessee-less than half of all non-English speakers in Tennessee hold only a high school credential, making it more difficult to find gainful employment.

Many adult learners enroll in online programs to build these skills and later attend college—some university programs in Tennessee even allow adult education credits to count towards your college degree. The Tennessee Transfer Pathway program specifically provides information for transfer students.

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